GOP Gains Momentum, But Midterm Spending Trails Dems'

GOP Gains Momentum, But Midterm Spending Trails Dems'
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
GOP Gains Momentum, But Midterm Spending Trails Dems'
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
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With the election less than 24 days away, Republicans are seeing momentum in polls after the Kavanaugh hearings and a new path to holding their majority in the House. To do this, they need to stop Democrats from reaching a net pickup of 23 seats, which will likely require raising more last-minute money.  Currently, many election watchers believe Democrats will gain anywhere from 20 to 40 seats.  However, if their loss of momentum persists, the lower end of that range becomes more likely and Republicans would maintain a slender majority.

In a memo to donors earlier this week, the Congressional Leadership Fund, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s super PAC, stated that “while Republicans still face historic headwinds, the last two weeks have brought improvement in the political environment and the best polling since the beginning of the summer. The enthusiasm gap has closed across the country, Republicans improved their standing with independent voters and President Trump’s approval rating improved across the board.”

The memo highlights 20 races within four points that may determine the House majority. While hedging his bets, Corry Bliss, executive director of the CLF, said he believes “if the election were held today, the Republicans would win 20 to 30 of the closes races.  Our issue now is how to sustain the momentum until Election Day.” 

The CLF has field offices in 40 districts and has committed resources to all of these races.  According to the memo, the CLF polled in 20 districts last week and has seen a five-point improvement with the president’s approval numbers.  With this new strength, the CLF has seen significant gains in the following six districts, which are now considered out of the danger zone:  Andy Barr (KY-06), Mike Bost (IL-12), Rodney Davis (IL-13), Will Hurd (TX-23), Brian Mast (FL-18), and John Katko (NY-24).  There are also improving conditions in all six of the battleground Republican-held seats in California. For Democrats to take over the House, they likely must flip some of these Golden State seats.

“For most of the summer, Democrats were winning independent voters, but the Kavanaugh hearings fired up the base and now they are back looking more like Republicans,” said Bliss. “Our closing argument is going to be results versus resistance.”

The biggest problem for Republicans is that they are being massively outspent by Democratic candidates and the national committees. “Democratic candidates are outspending Republican candidates in key races by $50 million and the GOP is now facing a green wave, not a blue wave,” said Bliss. 

According to a recent media buy spending report obtained by RCP, Republican candidates have reserved $65 million in television ads whereas Democratic candidates are spending a whopping $116 million.  It’s the same trend at the national level, with the National Republican Congressional Committee reserving $45 million in television ads, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spending $62 million. The only exception is the CLF, which has reserved $93 million compared to Nancy Pelosi’s House Majority PAC at $52 million.

Sixty Democrats raised over $1 million in the third quarter; 30 raised over $2 million; and eight raised over $3 million.  Adding to the GOP problem is the record number of open seats where incumbents can usually outraise their opponents; however, 44 Republicans are retiring in 2018, forcing groups such as the CLF to spend $20 million on open seats.

“In the last few weeks things have undeniably improved. Republican intensity is through the roof and the enthusiasm gap has closed. Now we need to keep it up for the next four weeks,” said Bliss.

Adele Malpass is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She was formerly chairwoman of the Manhattan Republican Party and money politics reporter for CNBC.

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